Flowstate Brewers and Distillers: Salt of the Earth
Leigh and Shaun Bridges and their families are salt of the earth kind of people. And this sensibility is very much a part of Flowstate.
Flowstate launched late 2019 with the release of their first gin, Craft Gin and while plans are underway for for a beer project in 2020 with experimentation of seasonal gins already in flight.
With a love for their region, their environment, brewing and botanicals, Leigh and Shaun are two brothers who have carefully crafted and constructed a remarkably balanced gin distinguishable by its Victorian Surf Coast origins. One can taste the wind, the ocean, the local coastal daisies, and the hop flowers from the high country leaving us with a "ferweh", a longing for a place we have never been.
We talk with Shaun Bridges about their journey into gin and their ever inspiring ethos.
Photo: Leigh & Shaun Bridges
You both have diverse backgrounds and skill sets that ultimately led you into the world of gin. Share your journey that led you to Flowstate.
After finishing high school in suburban Melbourne, we both decided we wanted to pursue a trade and work with our hands and build some vital skills for the future, Leigh went into electrical and I into Horticulture/landscaping.
After our apprenticeships we both got the travel bug and started to travel overseas, to have those skills and work ethic became extremely useful and flexible which really suited the backpacker lifestyle. We kept meeting each other in different places, traveling North and South America, ski seasons, surf trips, living together in the UK and exploring Europe.
Through our travels our eyes were widened to many different cultures, flavours and experiences that led to an appreciation for the craft, products made with purpose by people.
After returning home a few years later and getting back into a bit of a rut, we were both kind of just going through the motions, we decided to shake things up and switch careers, Shaun trained as a carpenter and Leigh started to chase one of his passions and became a brewer, which evolved into a passion for distilling.
At the same time, we knew the Melbourne city was not where we wanted to be long term and after countless of surf trips down to Torquay, we both left the big smoke and set up camp on the beautiful Surf Coast.
After a few years back and forth talking about how we wanted to do something together and own a business that allowed us to live the lifestyle we wanted and create something we were proud of and passionate about, starting a distillery was an obvious choice and we got the ball rolling.
The experience in building, brewing and horticulture industries has influenced a "practical creativity with a botanical sensibility to production processes and drink styles". In what way?
We are both very practical people, we’ve noticed a lot of people in this industry are either from advertising, engineering or microbiology backgrounds. We are blue collar through and through, we make things, we are great with our hands and feel like any challenges that come up in our business we will be able to put our heads together to overcome it.
Leigh is more the numbers and production/process guy, He’s much more organised and loves getting into the nitty gritty of brewing and distillation. Have a conversation with him about fermentation and he will chew your ear off for as long as you let him, its his passion.
I’m more the practical creative ideas man, I think outside the box as much as I can and bounce ideas off Leigh to see what will work.
For example, when we were developing our Craft Gin, with my horticulture background I brought the botanicals to the table and Leigh with his production background weaved them into what you taste in the bottle today.
Because Leigh has been in the alcohol industry already for some time now my point of view is more of an outsider, its easy sometimes to get stuck in an industry bubble of ideas and processes. Being family with different strengths and weaknesses allows us to approach the products we make from different angles, we are not bound by tradition but show respect none the less.
Photo: Shaun & Leigh Bridges
Tell us about the team behind Flowstate. Is it a family business?
For sure, that is one of the reasons we started this business in the first place. It is primarily just a two man operation, but we do get some help from our partners and some help from some local freelance designers and photographers from Torquay and Geelong to help us out with design.
Tell us about your vision for Flowstate when you launched and how it has evolved?
We want it to be a business that we could call our own and both be passionate and excited about, fit in with our outdoor lifestyle and be a place where we foster people and planet.
With a more relaxed approach to the spirit industry, in the same way the Australian craft beer industry has developed in this country we would love the spirit industry to do the same.
The overall vision is still pretty much the same but since Covid-19 it has definitely made us re-evaluate where we want to be and how we want to look in the future.
Photo: Leigh Bridges
Improving the human experience, authenticity and inclusiveness is a major theme for you. Please share why this is at the core of what you do, and how do you nurture this?
When first sat down and wrote a bit of a rough business plan, one of the first things we asked ourselves is what we wanted this business to be.
We wanted it to be truly authentic, we wanted it to be less bow ties more laid back as that is who we are, produce quality products that we are proud of that are inclusive and accessible.
Lifestyle is important to us we are trying to build a business that allows the opportunity for all people involved to follow passions in or outside the business.
We want to build a community around us and something we can pass onto our kids one day hopefully.
Photo: The Flowstate family
What influences your narrative when creating a new profile and gin?
Balance is the main one, if its not a balanced gin or spirit it doesn’t matter what you put into it, it probably won’t taste great. Also, we like to use Australian natives and local ingredients where we can, Australia has an abundant amount of great botanicals at our disposal. We want to create a little bit of a story with our products.
Do you both distill, and if so how do you collectively come up with a new flavour profile?
Both of us are heavily involved in the R&D process were we are both hands on with the distillation but Leigh is definitely the production knowledge of the business, with his production brewing background, his technical knowledge lends itself very well in distilling. Coupled with my background in horticulture we work well together to come up with new flavour profiles, It’s a pretty good combo.
What do you use for your base spirit?
Tell us about the botanicals for Craft Gin. Do you access unique botanicals in region?
We wanted our botanical list to have a mix of solid regulars that we know work (Juniper, Coriander seed, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Cinnamon) and you will find in most gins, but definitely have some that tell a story and represented us and were we live. One of our native Botanicals (Coastal Daisy Bush) is sourced locally in our area, the other (Mountain Pepper Berry) grows in the Otway’s but isn’t commercially available so we source it from Tasmania. We use Galaxy hops from Leigh brewing background to give our flavour profile and point of difference, with lemon and grapefruit to add the bright fresh citrus element.
We find Craft Gin soft, fruity, beautifully balanced and builds in body in warmth and spice leaving a very memorable drinking experience. It leaves us wanting more.
Is this what you wanted for your gin? Tell is what the creating process was like.
Yep! That’s exactly what we were going for, we wanted our hero gin to be a go-to everyday gin, balance, different but not too different that you didn’t want another glass, that can be enjoyed neat, with tonic and holds up in a cocktail.
We started with a base of core traditional ingredients to build on then I put his safari jacket on and went foraging, he bought countless interesting local botanicals to the table which we distilled individually to understand what they would contribute to gin, many weird and wonderful botanicals (some that tasted terrible) that we thought would work but didn’t we narrowed them down to a couple that would represent who we are and where we came from.
From there we got some help by the guys at Alchemy Distillers in Healesville to pull it all together. We went to them with a pretty solid recipe but felt it needed to be refined and they had the right equipment and knowledge to really fine tune it and balance it out. Evan at Alchemy is an absolute legend and we really appreciated the wisdom and guidance we got from him.
Photo: Coastal Daisy
Photo: Hop flower
Currently do you have any gin in limited release or under experimentation?
Funny you should ask! We have two seasonals on the way, French Oak barrel rested gin on Pinot and Chardonnay wine lees. They will be released over the coming months.
What is life like for you as an independent Australian distiller?
Busy but rewarding, the industry is so new that people don’t really know what we are and what we do, this will come with time, we just have to get out there and spread the good word. The support from the consumer is amazing.
Cost is probably our biggest hurdle, it is hard to compete with imports due to our high taxes but with many other local independent products out there people are willing to pay a little more for quality and to support small Australian producers. Reform in this department would help the industry thrive and allow us to grow and employ, We are very optimistic that the industry is on the up and we are going to ride it like a bull.
In your opinion, what makes Australian Gin so special?
Our willingness not to stick to tradition, With the amazing native botanical choice we have in this country, it gives us the opportunity to create some amazing flavours.
Where do you want to take it with Flowstate?
We would like to see the gin industry and especially the craft spirit industry follow in the craft beer industry footsteps and infiltrate the mainstream. Local gins on the back bar not only in specialized cocktail venues but in restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Education is the key, informing the consumer of where the products are made and by who. Creating experiences and regional diversity.
There will be a lot of experimental stuff out there good and bad but in the end we will all be better for it attracting new people to the category.
Any teasers for what's in store or anything in development? Gin or otherwise?
If I tell you then I would have to kill you! Let’s just say it involves molasses.
Finally, how do you take your gin?
In a glass!
Distiller Recipes for Craft Gin
We are simple people with our cocktails for Craft Gin. Two to three ingredients classics are what we tend to gravitate towards that let the Gin shine.
2 parts Capi Dry tonic / Capi Native Dry Tonic / Soda
1 part Flowstate Craft Gin
Garnish with grapefruit wedge and rosemary. You’re done.
Specifically created by The Gin Birds:
1 part StrangeLove Coastal Tonic
1 part Flowstate Craft Gin
Pour over ice or chilled gin stones (included in The Gin Birds subscription box). Garnish with thyme or rosemary.
A take on the classics
Martini60mls Flowstate Craft Gin
5ml Dry Vermouth
2 Drops Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
Stir. Serve in Martini/Nick and Nora Glass. Garnish with zest or twist of yellow grapefruit.
Want it Dirty? Add 5ml Olive brine.
Tom Collins60ml Flowstate Craft Gin
20ml Lemon juice
10ml Sugar syrup
Build in a tall glass. Stir quickly to combine then top with soda. Garnish with cinnamon.
30ml Flowstate Craft Gin
30ml Sweet Vermouth
Stir and strain over ice in a large rocks glass..
A little left field.
45ml Flowstate Craft Gin
10ml Fiorente Elderflower Liqueur
5ml Sugar Syrup
60ml India Pale Ale
Serve in Wine Glass
Wine glass with ice add gin, Elderflower Liqueur and sugar syrup. Stir to combine, then top with soda and beer, garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Hop To It45ml Flowstate Craft Gin
Shake and strain into a Coupette glass. Top with 60ml India Pale Ale. Hop garnish
The fancy schmancy ones.
Coast is the Word50ml Flowstate Craft Gin
5ml Green Chartreuse
4 drops Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
45ml Flowstate Craft Gin
10ml Brookie’s MAC Macadamia Liqueur
5ml Amontillado Sherry
Toasted cinnamon garnish
Serve over ice.
Liking the Ale? FlowState Craft Gin works beautifully with Stone and Wood Pacific Ale or any Galaxy Driven Pale Ale.
Distiller's Tasting Notes
An alluring Australian Craft Gin. Of the earth this gin winds its way from the Victorian Surf Coast, through the forest and up to the mountain towns of Victoria.
Coastal Daisy a native foraged from our beautiful Surf Coast home and Australian hops flowers from the Victorian high country with the addition of wedged grapefruit and lemon are vapour infused for a delicate distillate balancing savoury and floral notes with a citrus freshness.
Depth is added in the pot by a strong backbone of forest pine Juniper berries, the brightness of crushed coriander seeds, spiced background notes of Australian pepperberries while cinnamon give the distillate a long soft finish. Orris and Angelica root hold it all together in an interesting everyday gin.
Pairs great with a local premium dry tonic, as a base for many cocktails, amazing in a classic Martini.
- Yellow Grapefruit and Hops
- Yellow Grapefruit and Rosemary
- Orange and Rosemary
Base – Australian wheat.
Traditional botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, cinnamon.
Australian botanicals – coastal daisy, hops, pepperberry, grapefruit, lemon.
Flowstate is committed to addressing issues facing our natural world by contributing 1% of all sales to a fantastic global movement. “1% for the Planet” is a network of like-minded individuals, businesses, donors and non-profit organizations working together toward a common goal: protecting the future of our planet. For more information head to www.onepercentfortheplanet.org
Written by Suzan Temizer, Shaun and Leigh Bridges. Photos courtesy of Flowstate Brewers and Distillers.